Smotrich: Having Arabs in government defies Israel’s Jewish, democratic nature
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Smotrich: Having Arabs in government defies Israel’s Jewish, democratic nature

Hardline transportation minister says vast majority of Israelis don’t want ‘those people’ in charge of country, laments that ‘hatred of Netanyahu leading to such an extreme’

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Transportation Minister  Bezalel Smotrich speaks at the Yamina party headquarters on election night in Ramat Gan, on September 17, 2019. (Flash90)
Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich speaks at the Yamina party headquarters on election night in Ramat Gan, on September 17, 2019. (Flash90)

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Monday reacted angrily to unconfirmed reports that Blue and White was working to form a minority coalition backed by the Joint List alliance of majority-Arab parties, whom he accused of being disloyal to the state.

In an interview with Army Radio, the hardline lawmaker said that most Israeli voters opposed creating a minority government that would be led by the centrist Blue and White and supported from the outside by the Joint List and the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu.

“Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, and having a minority government is neither of those things,” Smotrich said.

“The previous minority government [in the 1990s] brought us [the Oslo Accords] which was a huge disaster,” he said. “Establishing a government with the Arab parties contradicts the democratic and Jewish nature of Israel.”

“Blue and White should be party to this consensus,” Smotrich said. “It’s sad to me that there is a minority of people whose hatred of Netanyahu is leading them to such an extreme.”

“I think the vast majority of Israeli society doesn’t want those people sharing in leading the State of Israel,” said Smotrich, a member of the hard-right National Union faction, which is allied with Jewish Home.

“As long as the Arabs want to be a part of Israel then the door is wide open. [Not wanting to be part of the country] may not be the case for all ‘Arab Israelis,’ but it is the case for the Arab Knesset members,” Smotrich said.

Blue and White chair Benny Gantz (C) meeting with leaders of the Joint List alliance, Ayman Odeh (L) and Ahmed Tibi, October 31, 2019. (Ofek Avshalom)

A poll conducted by Army Radio on Monday found that 52 percent of Blue and White voters supported the idea of a minority government propped up by Arab parties, while 44% opposed the idea.

Among all Israelis, Jewish and Arab alike, only 34% supported such cooperation, while 59% opposed it, indicating that Blue and White chief Benny Gantz has little support for most of the options available to him for cobbling together a coalition following inconclusive elections in September and after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was given a chance but failed to put together a government.

But Gantz faces a difficult time securing a Knesset majority and prospects for an unprecedented third election — perhaps sometime early next year — are growing.

Gantz met with leaders of the Joint List last month, but has not said whether he supports the establishment of a minority government with the support of the Arab-majority parties.

Joint List chief Ayman Odeh has called on Gantz to form a minority government that includes the Arabs, saying last month that even if it would quickly fall, such a “courageous” move would be worth it for the single purpose of ending Netanyahu’s term as prime minister.

The last time an Arab-majority party backed the government was in 1992 when Hadash supported, but did not join, Yitzhak Rabin’s Labor-led coalition.

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